The producers of Netflix’s The Crown have recently revealed that Claire Foy, the lead actress portraying the Queen in the series, makes significantly less money per episode than her male counterpart Matt Smith, who portrays Prince Philip. Reportedly, Claire Foy makes £28,000 per episode from a £7 million budget per episode.
The Crown is a wildly popular and critically acclaimed Netflix series. It tells the story of the current British royal family – focusing predominantly on Queen Elizabeth II. The first season centres primarily on her coming to power, the first decade of her reign and the royal family dynamic. Released in December 2017, the second season encompasses a wider subject matter to include background on Princess Margaret, the Kennedys, and Prince Philips’s upbringing.
At a recent press event when prompted, the producers of the show conceded that Foy makes significantly less salary per episode than Smith does. This is despite the fact that she plays the leading character and appears in every episode without exception, both of which Smith does not. As explained by the producers, the rationale behind the pay gap is due to the star quality carried forward by Smith’s Dr. Who affiliation. Because he was considered ‘more famous’ than Foy prior to the show’s creation, he earns a higher salary.
This, of course, is not the first case of gender pay gap-related issues showing its face in show business. Another infamous example of this is Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams’s pay discrepancy for All the Money in The World. The film was shot prior to the #MeToo scandal, and thereafter called for a reshoot after allegations against Kevin Spacey surfaced, given he played a major character in the film. Wahlberg was paid £1 million to return to set, whereas Williams was only paid a little less than £1000. To reconcile what he agreed to be an injustice, Wahlberg donated the difference to the Time’s Up movement.
As was argued by the producers, Foy was paid less because of her supposed ‘newcomer status’. Whatever her ‘status’ may be, fans and the online community were outraged by the news and took to social media to share their grievances. Many were suggesting that Smith should follow Wahlberg’s example in donating the sum to the Time’s Up movement. However, this raises a number of problems in its own way.
The public cannot force a celebrity to surrender a large sum of money that was, all objections aside, a payment in exchange for work that he performed. The fact is that it makes complete sense for a larger name to receive a larger pay. Furthermore, show business is unethical – something that we all know and have long discussed. And no, the fact that we are aware of its meandering morals does not mean we shouldn’t protest incidents such as the gender pay gap. However, demanding for Smith to donate money to the Time’s Up movement doesn’t help Foy in the immediate sense at all.
The producers of the show announced that the incident would not be repeated, and that the future cast for the show would be paid according to their casting; in other words, the Queen actually is paid as such. Yet again, a similar issue arises in that although this is reassuring on a broader level, Claire Foy has still been wronged. So perhaps instead of pressing Matt Smith to donate to Time’ s Up, we should be pressing him to return money to Claire Foy that is rightfully hers for playing the lead character in what The Independent has reported as being “the most expensive TV series to date”. Then Foy can decide whether to pass the money on, or to keep her earnings.
Image: Geom via Wikimedia Commons